The church and the Prince

June 1, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Posted in Christianity | 1 Comment
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I bet at least one of you is wondering about the title. What prince am I talking about? Well, it’s not the Prince that used to be a symbol. It’s also not the Prince of any nation led by royalty. The Prince that I want to talk about is a book by Niccolò Machiavelli. I’ve been reading a book by Dr. Benjamin Wiker called Ten Books That Screwed Up the World, and Five Others That Didn’t Help. In this book, Dr. Wiker talks about various books that have had an extremely negative influence on the thinking and actions of the generations that followed them. The first book that Dr. Wiker talks about is The Prince.

 I am shocked by how much influence the books have had, but reading about The Prince brought me to some thoughts about the church that I wanted to toss out for discussion. The book says that everyone understands that the honest and faithful leader is laudable and praiseworthy. Everyone understands that it is best to be honest and faithful, but Machiavelli questions whether or not the honest leaders are successful ones. The premise of The Prince is that a leader needs only to look pious, holy, and noble. The leaders, while looking like leaders are expected to look, are then told that they can use whatever means necessary to keep themselves in power. Machiavelli says that “goodness” is whatever the ruler does to maintain his rule. He says that being good is something to be tossed aside but appearing good is to be pursued. A prince doesn’t keep his word, but instead practices deception and that is what brings the most successful results.

 Unfortunately, this is in direct opposition to Christian beliefs. Sadly, this thought pattern has shown itself in even religious institutions. While it may not be to the point that Machiavelli encouraged in his book, it made me wonder about some of the basic premises. For instance, Machiavelli says that it is not necessary for leaders to be righteous, holy, noble, or honest as long as they look that way. It is this thought that started me thinking about the church.

 It seems to me that this is one of the founding ideas of the modern Christian church. It seems that the modern church is more concerned with looking holy, righteous, noble and honest, all the while acting like the world and doing whatever they want. They present a façade of what Christianity should be while using whatever means necessary to get what they want. Look at some of the examples we have nowadays. Joel Osteen is the pastor of a “megachurch” in Houston. He is one of the most well known pastors in America and around the world. Many, many people talk about how they love his “sermons” and how he is a great example of Christianity. But what’s the true measure of Christianity? Is it what we think a Christian is, or is there another standard? I believe that there is a much higher standard than what we set for our “leaders”. If someone looks pious and acts that way, does that make them a Christian? If they are soft-spoken and do good things, are they necessarily a Christian? Or, is it an instance of The Prince influencing the church? Does it matter how a “pastor” looks and acts if they fail to preach the truth? Now, before you think I’m just attacking Joel Osteen, listen to what he preaches. A few months ago, Mr. Osteen preached to his 50, 000 plus congregation that he doesn’t eat pepperoni or shrimp because it was something that the Jews were told not to in Leviticus. What does this have to do with the New Testament or the gospel? Does this not sound like the Judaizers that Paul faced in Galatia? What purpose would keeping the Levitical laws have for someone who believes in Christ? The Levitical laws no longer apply to Christians! The moral law (Ten Commandments) still does because Jesus didn’t abolish that law; He fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).

 How about other examples? What about the prosperity gospel “preachers”? They go around the world “preaching” prosperity and blessing to those who will listen, but to what end? They act piously and righteously (often touting their piousness) but what they preach isn’t found in the gospel. Not only that, there are some statistics that show that the people who follow these false gospel preachers are some of the poorest people. What does this say about their gospel? The influence of The Prince is evident here. In the “prosperity” circles, it’s all about chasing the blessing and gaining God’s favor. Those who preach the prosperity gospel will say that it’s not about money only. They will talk about how they want “believers” to regain the “authority” they lost and live like Christians are supposed to live. If it’s not about money, then why do all of their messages revolve around money? If it’s not about money, then why do they all have to have private jets, million dollar mansions, and designer suits? Why do they constantly talk about “sowing and reaping” and asking their followers to give money so they can gain God’s blessing for their lives? They parade around and shout and yell and get red-faced as they “preach” their “message” with “authority” but the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Machiavelli would be proud. They aren’t killing anyone to keep themselves in the position of power that they have, but they are using deception to get exactly what they want and looking as pious, righteous, holy, and noble while doing so.

 What about the whole conflagration with Miss California? Carrie Prejean has been held up as a role model for Christians (young women especially). She talks about her faith and when she answered the question Perez Hilton asked, she was lauded as a wonderful example of Christianity. Is this true? Think about this for a minute. Here is a “Christian” woman parading around IN A BIKINI!!! What kind of example is she setting? So she thinks that marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s great, but is she a role model? I will not have my daughter doing what she does…ever. The bible makes clear statements about how women (and men) should dress modestly (1 Timothy 2:8-9). How can you be modest when your body is almost totally uncovered? How does this reflect Christianity? Is it because she claims to be a Christian or thinks that marriage is between a man and a woman that she is a Christian? I think that it’s great that she believes in traditional marriage, but that alone doesn’t make here a Christian. She goes to a church, but that doesn’t make her a Christian either. She seems to be using Christianity to forward her career. She looks and sounds pious, but where is the fruit? If she understands what the bible says and was taught by people who understand the bible, then she should know that what she wears and how she presents herself does not line up with Christianity. She would know that parading around in a bikini on a stage in front of millions of men (and women) could likely cause many of those watching to sin by lusting after her. Now, I understand that they could lust after her even if she dressed modestly, but do they need help? What really irks me is that she seems to have no concern or care for what she’s doing. She’s basically said that she doesn’t care if people don’t agree with what she’s doing, she’s a Christian and she’s going to continue to model and do pageants. Machiavelli would be proud.

 Watching what is going on in the church and seeing how so many people call themselves Christians and then do whatever they want, I can’t help but wonder how small the true church is. I can’t help but think about the parable of the wheat and the tares. It seems that the church is full of weeds. There are a number of people who look like wheat, but they have no fruit. The new game for the church is to see how quickly you can start a church, fill the seats, and then build your new buildings. Of course, this doesn’t happen when you preach the true gospel. To get this to happen, to build a “megachurch”, you have to compromise the gospel. You have to preach what people what to hear to keep them comfortable. You have to have programs that help people to feel like they are doing something good and “reaching out” to others. If you have this, then you’re off to a good start. Unfortunately (in these churches), it’s not the gospel that saves. Instead, it’s the emotional experience that people have and then spend the rest of their lives creating. I have said this before but I still can’t help wondering how you can grow a “megachurch” and preach the true gospel. The bible itself says that people will hate the message of the true gospel. If people are going to hate that message, how likely is it that you’re going to have thousands upon thousands to fill a former sports arena?  If you really want to see the effects of the gospel clearly, look outside the US.

 The church of America today (and to a large extent the rest of the world) is playing with the principles found in Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince. They strive to build a convincing façade of holiness, righteousness, and piety while doing everything that they can to fill and grow their churches (even if it is directly against the scriptures they are supposed to uphold). Is this what Christianity is? Nope. Christianity is about recognizing that you are a wretched sinner and that you have been saved by the grace of God. It is about Jesus Christ taking the punishment for your sins (crimes against God and His law) and you being released. It is then a life of striving to be an example of Christ on earth. It means that you repent of your sins as soon as they are committed and share the truth of the gospel. This is Christianity. It is not about being perfect, it is about striving for perfection while understanding that you will need God’s grace daily for the sins that you still commit. To those who profess and play up their “Christianity” for the public eye and to gain anything for themselves (whether it be money, congregants, or anything else) you need to stop. You are doing nothing other than making a mockery of my Lord and Savior…

Woe to you!

December 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In Matthew 23, Jesus is talking to a crowd that gathered around Him. He had just finished dealing with the questions of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They had been asking questions about different theological issues. At the end of chapter 22, Jesus turns the tables on them and asks them a question. After His question, no one could answer Him. Then, in chapter 23, He goes on to warn the people about the Pharisees.

 

Mat 23:1  Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,

Mat 23:2  saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;

Mat 23:3  therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

Mat 23:4  “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

Mat 23:5  “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

Mat 23:6  “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,

Mat 23:7  and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

Mat 23:8  “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

Mat 23:9  “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

Mat 23:10  “Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

Mat 23:11  “But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

Mat 23:12  “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Mat 23:13  “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

Mat 23:14  [“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]

Mat 23:15  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Mat 23:16  “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’

Mat 23:17  “You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?

Mat 23:18  “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’

Mat 23:19  “You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?

Mat 23:20  “Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.

Mat 23:21  “And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.

Mat 23:22  “And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

Mat 23:23  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

Mat 23:24  “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

Mat 23:25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

Mat 23:26  “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Mat 23:27  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

Mat 23:28  “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Mat 23:29  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

Mat 23:30  and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

Mat 23:31  “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Mat 23:32  “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

Mat 23:33  “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Mat 23:34  “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,

Mat 23:35  so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Mat 23:36  “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Mat 23:37  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

Mat 23:38  “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!

Mat 23:39  “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'”

 

Jesus condemns the Pharisees for doing all of the visual things that commend them to others but have absolutely no meaning to God without the inner change that comes from being saved by grace through faith. He warns the crowd that they shouldn’t be like them if they want to know eternal life. The Pharisees were the religious leaders and should have been leading God’s people closer to Him. They had a deep knowledge of what the scripture says and should have been waiting for Christ to come. They should have been the ones to recognize Him in the temple at 12 years old. They should have been out in the streets trying to get the people in Roman-occupied Israel to flock to Jesus and receive the gift of salvation. Instead of this, they created even tougher laws the people had to follow to be right with God. They took advantage of the laws better their lives and position.

 

In this chapter, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for keeping others from heaven. He rebukes them for their pretensions and treatment of widows. He also condemns them for making converts even worse off then they were themselves. They were rebuked for not having their hearts focused on the right thing (they were more worried about gold than God). He rebuked them for following the finer points of the law (the tithe) while ignoring justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He rebuked them for making their appearance holy and righteous while the inside is horrible. He exposed their self-righteousness and His condemnation of it.

 

Today, we see these same things in churches across the globe. “Pastors” are preaching a different gospel and keeping people from entering heaven. Christians are ignoring widows and take from those who can’t afford it (getting them to “sow seeds”), all in the name of Christianity. Those who get “converted” are made to jump through hoops and become worse than those leading them. The focus is on the money and material things instead of God. Christians nitpick and focus on minor things (color of the carpet, who can sing what, etc.) while ignoring larger things. They give money and material things to people in the congregation and do “good” things in the community, but they ignore the things that people really need. They don’t preach sin, hell, judgment, and wrongdoing. Going to church today has become all about appearance. It’s about whether you look like what a Christian should look like, not by the scriptural definition, but by what the current Christian trends say. If the trends say that torn jeans, Starbucks, and facial hair are what makes a Christian, then droves of people will end up doing it just to look like a Christian. It doesn’t matter what kind of lifestyle you live, as long as you look like a Christian. The church has determined what righteousness is and has proclaimed itself to be so instead of measuring itself by God’s standard.

 

We need to stop using worldly trends and current efforts by churches to look like the world in order to attract people to determine who is a Christian. Instead, we need to return to scripture and use God’s Word to determine who is and isn’t a Christian. It’s not about what non-believers think. It’s not about what the church thinks. It’s about what God says. We need to repent of sin. We need to teach others the truth of sin and how God sees it and the people that commit it. We need to start doing things we know that we should be. We need to honestly and energetically portray Christ the way that He portrayed Himself in the Bible. We need to be witnesses to the true Christ and to be telling others at every opportunity that without Christ, they will find themselves in hell. We can’t beat the world at being the world and it’s not the job of the church to try. Instead, we need to be the church. We need to be holy and set apart like the Bible calls us to be. It’s the only thing that will lead people to the Saviorhttp://www.cafepress.com/ateasetees/4506794 of the world…

Don’t be lead astray!

November 3, 2008 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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2Co 11:1-6  I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. For I consider myself not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles. But even if I am unskilled in speech, yet I am not so in knowledge; in fact, in every way we have made this evident to you in all things.

 

By just this passage alone, we can see Paul’s concern for those who were part of the churches that he started. He was concerned that those new believers would be lead astray from their devotion to Christ and the truth that He represents. He specifically mentions being deceived, as Eve was (Gen. 3:1-13). He was concerned that they were hearing a false gospel, the real one being perverted by the Judaizers so much that it was truly a different gospel. The main purpose for his warning is the fact that he knew what would happen to them if they did stray from the true gospel.

 

If Paul were alive today, I believe that he be more concerned about those in the church today than he was when he wrote the passage above. Back in Paul’s day, the main detractors of Christianity were the Judaizers, who tried to get Christians to continue keeping the law, and the Gnostics who said that it was impossible to know God and to have absolute knowledge about anything. Over the last 100 years, the gospel of Christ has been changed, diluted, and perverted by a number of people. Some of them have done so to deliberately lead new or naïve believers astray. Without the true gospel, they have nothing to stand on in times of persecution or tribulation and they fall away from the faith. In a large number of American churches, a gospel other than the one that Paul preached is being proclaimed. The congregations of these churches are being taught to chase things other than God. They chase the lust of the flesh (homosexuality, adultery, fornication), the lust of the eyes (greed, covetousness), and the boastful pride of life (self-righteousness, works-righteousness).

 

They are also following other “Gods”. They follow strange doctrines (prosperity, God is love and nothing else, the perpetual virginity of Mary), myths (Hinduism, Islam, Mormonism, evolution, New Age), and spout endless genealogies (Judaism, “the men in my family have been Baptist preachers for a hundred years). The pastors that are “leading” them are making them comfortable and tickling their ears, telling them what they want to hear and inoculating them against sin.

 

But, how are Christians supposed to combat these things? To deal with persecution, you have to know what Jesus said. You have to know that He said that it was going to come. You have to realize that there are people who are dying and going to hell who need to hear the truth of the gospel. To fight the different gospels being preached today, the first thing to do (again) is to know the truth of scripture. Jesus tells us in John 8:32,36 that we are to continue in His Word if we are to be His disciples. What I’m going to say next is probably going to upset a few people but that’s part of it. If you are going to be a true disciple of Christ, you have to check everything against scripture, no matter who says it or how well respected they are. You have to truly study scripture. You have to know what God said, how He said it, and the context in which it was spoken. We have to be willing to read scripture and change our lives to conform to it instead of the reverse. We also have to be alert. The false gospels that are being preached today (prosperity gospel, social gospel, feel good gospel, etc.) are subtle gospels that can easily deceive even those who have been “in church” for years if those people are not careful. To fight against the idols and chasing of other things, we have to repent. We have to put God first and put Him before anything or anyone else. There is only God, His Son, and His Spirit as they are presented in scripture. To fight being comfortable and having our ears tickled, we’re going to have to be honest. If you are sitting in church Sunday after Sunday (or whenever you go) and you never come to the point where you are convicted about some of the things in your life, either you’re perfect (you’re not) or you’re not hearing the gospel. If you go to church and you never hear about sin, judgment, and hell then something is wrong. If you’re pastor/preacher is always giving topical sermons or doing sermons series on the Beatles, then you are not getting the gospel the way that you need it.

 

There are other things that I think that we need to do as well. One thing is that we need to stop running the church as an entertainment business. We are not in the body of Christ to turn around and entertain anyone. We are in the body of Christ because of the grace of our Lord and His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection three days later. We are supposed to be telling others the truth so that they can escape eternity in hell. Another thing that I think the church needs to do is to start disciplining its members. Sadly, this would greatly reduce the number of people in the church drastically. I truly feel that many pastors are not pastoring but just standing up in front on Sunday for accolades or attention or because they feel that it is their “calling” or “duty”. If you don’t care enough about the people in your local church to discipline them if they are living in sin, then you need to reconsider whether or not you’re a pastor. One final thing that we as the body of Christ need to be doing is calling heresy what it is. We need to recognize heretics and call them what they are. If they are preaching a false gospel and leading others astray, they are heretics. This includes ideas like Modalism (which is something that TD Jakes believes), the prosperity gospel (being preached by people like Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Benny Hinn), and the social gospel (which is espoused by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and Bill Hybels of Willow Creek). None of these beliefs are hermeneutically sound. They all present different gospels and different Christs than those found in the bible.

 

If we are truly going to change America and every other country in the world, then we, as the church and as Jesus’ representatives, need to present and live the truth in front of others. We cannot live our own truth and expect others to see Christ…

A word from the Lord?

May 19, 2008 at 10:35 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Every Sunday, pastors all over the world stand up and give a prepared message to their congregations. Many of these messages have been prepared by the pastor through hours of study and prayer. They are given to different sized congregations for different purposes. Something that has caught my attention lately is the use of a certain phrase to describe the messages that many pastors give today.

 

It’s becoming more and more common to hear that Pastor So-and-So has a “word from the Lord” for his congregation. As soon as I hear that phrase, it makes me wonder. I wonder if the pastor actually received it from God. I wonder if this is just another topical sermon designed to improve the lives of the listeners. I wonder what he really spent the entire week doing. This may not seem like something big to you, but it is to me and I’ll tell you why.

 

When someone says that they have a “word from the Lord” it sounds like God literally spoke to them (like He did with the Old Testament prophets) and gave them this “word”. Often, this “word” is nothing more than an effort to infuse some sort of power into the message of the pastor. I mean, if it’s really a word “from” the Lord then that means that the pastor hasn’t had to spend a lot of time preparing this, he just received it and is ready to tell others. It also seems to make the pastor some kind of connector between God and the congregation. He raises himself above the scriptural calling of the pastor and becomes a kind of mediator between God and man (the Bible says there’s only One). In scripture, this phrase isn’t used by anyone who preaches the gospel. In reality, many of the messages deemed “words from the Lord” seem to be nothing more than opinions loosely tied together with scripture so that there is some kind of “authority” given to them.

 

Some of you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a phrase.”

 

You’re right, it’s just a phrase, but so is pretty much everything else that we say and when those phrases imply something that doesn’t seem to be scriptural, we should at least ask questions…

 

As I said above, when I hear someone say that they have a “word from the Lord”, I am automatically put on guard. If they have heard directly from God, then I’m going to be able to check it against scripture. If they haven’t heard directly from God, I’m going to check that against scripture too. The phrase lends itself to the idea that the person who uses it is “holier than thou” and closer to God than the rest of us because God “gave” them a “word”.

 

Another phrase that is similar to this is when someone tells me “what the word of the Lord is for me”. I have the same reaction to this phrase. I get on guard and can’t help but look at what comes after skeptically. It doesn’t lend itself to anything other than trying to strengthen the image and/or position of the person who speaks it.

 

All of this got me thinking about a few things. First, God has already given us His Word. We have 66 books of scripture to read through and glean knowledge from. Do we really need something else? Has the pastor or the congregation made sense of the whole of scripture to the point that they are bored and need more? That seems highly unlikely. There is so much to be found in the scriptures that we could spend our entire lives studying and learning (and we should be). As an example, my friends and I have committed to study the entire Bible inductively. We figure that it’s going to take over ten years to finish. We started in January and have just now gotten to Genesis 6-8. I have learned so much from this that it continues to amaze me how I missed it to begin with. The wonderful thing is, when we finish this study, we can start over and still learn stuff from the same scriptures! That being the case, do I need someone telling me something other than scripture? NO! All I need is to hear/read/study/apply scripture and I will have more than enough to keep me busy for a loooong time.

 

The other thing that comes to mind as I think on this is the idea of having to be told that something is “a word from the Lord”. Should I need you to tell me that? Shouldn’t I be able to see that from the “word” itself? If you have to tell me that it’s from God, shouldn’t I be on the defensive about it? I would think that if something is directly from God that it would be readily apparent to many of those who listen, wouldn’t it? Telling me that your message is a “word from God” just makes me want to doubt it all the more. It makes me wonder if there is some hidden purpose or agenda for the message you’re preaching. It’s like the pastor is trying to misdirect people or lull them into a false sense of security so that they won’t recognize that he really didn’t spend time preparing or that he has something that he’s trying to accomplish that has nothing to do with the care of the flock…

 

This may seem nitpicky to some of you and that’s ok. You don’t have to agree with me. I am just tired of having every pastor in a 30 mile radius tell me that their message is “a word from the Lord” only to see many of them contradict each other!

 

I guess part of the reason that this bothers me so much is that I don’t understand the thinking behind it. Why would you want to do this? Why would you want to try and put your opinions on the same level as scripture? Why wouldn’t you just want to preach the Word the way that it’s written? Why not just take a passage from scripture (without removing it from it’s context!!!!) and preach it? Then you spend some time telling people how to apply that to their lives right now. This is preaching “the word of the Lord”! It’s taking God’s Word the way that it’s written and giving it to others. It’s helping them understand it (like Ezra did in Nehamiah 8) and then teaching them to apply it. It’s helping the congregation to understand sin (which, alarmingly, seems to be lacking today). It’s helping them to see themselves the way that God sees them, as wretched, filthy sinners who will enter into heaven not because they’re good people, but because they are bad people who have been forgiven by a good God.

 

If you are a pastor and you’re not preaching the truth of the gospel to your congregation then you are doing them serious harm. If you spend more time on topical subjects and how they can live better lives than you do breaking the Bread of Life with them, you are building a congregation of false converts and confused, self-righteous people who are blown about by every wind of doctrine. If you are preaching on how to have better intimacy with your spouse instead of preaching on the love, justice, and holiness of God, then you really need to reconsider whether or not you’re really called to be a pastor.

 

The body of Christ needs people who will strive to live out the Christian walk by example. It needs people who are truly willing to die to themselves and crucify their flesh daily so that others will see a strong, solid reflection of Christ. We don’t need any more ear-tickling, soft-word speaking, wishy-washy preachers who are too busy worrying about their image or their numbers to speak the truth to their congregations!

 

Your thoughts?

Go?

April 28, 2008 at 11:12 am | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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As I look at America’s Christian landscape, I am often surprised at what I see compared to what I hope to see. I hope to see our country returning to its Christian roots, being lead by strong Christian men and women. What I see is men and women professing to be Christians and then leading those who are truly looking for Jesus away from Him. I see men and women in positions of authority shaping a “God” to suit themselves, a sort of “golden calf” Jesus that amazingly agrees with everything that they say and do.

 

Evangelism has changed much over the last 100 years. It used to be that when the evangelist came to town, you heard about fire and brimstone, hell, sin, and judgment. You heard about how death was waiting for you and that if you died without the redeeming blood of Christ, you would end up tormented for eternity. That’s how it used to be… now, you very rarely hear about hell, sin, or judgment when the scriptures are preached.

 

One thing that I have been seeing a lot of since I became a Christian (and something that continues to grow daily it seems) is the effort by churches across the country to “reach out” to the lost. You’re probably saying, “Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?” Yes, that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s not my point though. A lot of the “reaching out” has nothing to do with “reaching”. I see more “Christian events” now than I ever have, but is that “reaching out”? I am entirely frustrated by the modern idea of evangelism. Many church leaders and laymen seem to think that if you have an “event” that is held by a church and sing songs about Jesus and put on dramas with Christian themes that that’s “reaching out”. They seem to think that people will pick up on the “vibe” and become Christians by osmosis.

 

“Hang out with us and you can be Jesus’ best bud!”

 

That may be a little rough, but that’s the basic idea behind many of the events that I’ve seen. There are some that make sure that the gospel is heard, including some “big name” Christian entertainers. But, they seem to be fewer and farther in between. Instead we try to get the lost to come to us by enticing them with Nintendo Wiis and other worldly stuff. We appeal to their sense of greed and covetousness, believing that they’ll forget about that when they get to the event and “hear the gospel” (it makes me sick to write that in quotes…blah). Then, we dress up the event in the most “cutting edge” styles of entertainment the world has to offer. We “rock out” for Jesus in the hopes that just one soul will come to Christ. I mean it’s worth all of the money and time that we spend if just one soul comes to Christ right? Isn’t that the mentality of today? “If just one soul comes to know God…” That makes me sick too because it’s used as a cop out for the lack of true evangelism. Let’s say you have a two-hour “Christian event” coming up. Now, let’s look at some common scenarios:

 

#1) The event starts with fun and games. It has prizes and, throughout the event, there are announcements as to the “amazing” and “awesome” things that will be given away. There is Christian music blaring in the background and everyone is laughing and having a good time. At the appointed time, the games are stopped, the crowd is gathered, and the people are shown a drama or two and some other common youth ministry efforts. The people then hear the gospel for about 5 minutes and told that if they just “ask Jesus into their heart”, everything will be ok and they will go to heaven. After those five minutes are up, the people are herded to the main event, after which they leave and are never seen again. If “just one soul comes to Christ”, was that worth it? Was that effective evangelism?

 

#2) A Christian event is advertised to take place once a month. It is known to be a “rock out” type of event where there are hundreds of people who stand shoulder to shoulder dancing and singing and jumping and shouting. After about an hour and a half, the plea is made for funds to help the ministry continue and then the “preaching segment” is started. In this segment, the guest preacher stands up and delivers their view of scripture. Their manners and method of delivery make the presentation an emotional event that stirs up the heart and gets people “connected” to the preacher. The truth of the gospel is never preached. Instead, it’s replaced with a “gospel lite” about how those who are hurting and broken can “be free” (with John 8:36 often quoted). The “congregation” hears about how they can come to the front and be prayed over to receive healing, freedom, and even a “fresh anointing” of the Holy Spirit. Is this effective evangelism?

 

#3) A church hosts one day a month where they give away food to those who are less fortunate. They structure it in a way so that while those who are there for food wait for their order, others come in and minister to them. They may or may not hear the gospel. They may or may not get seen to. Some of them may “accept Christ”. They will all get food and have their physical needs satisfied. Is this effective evangelism?

 

These scenarios are not the only ones that take place. There are good things that happen at each, but are they effective evangelism? There are many others, but all of the ones that I’ve seen have some common issues and some that are specific to that scenario.

 

The first thing that all of these scenarios have in common is the direction people are going in and who’s doing the moving. In the modern church, the church makes the effort to draw people to them. It is the lost that are doing the moving in the direction of the church. This is one of the main problems of modern evangelism. In Matthew 28 and Mark 16 Jesus says to His disciples that they are to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature”. It is Jesus’ followers that should be the ones moving. They should be making the effort to go to the lost and preach the gospel. Sadly, much of the church isn’t doing either. They aren’t going to the lost, they’re trying to get the lost to come to them! It’s like the churches want the lost to see the wonderful building that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on and to hear the amazing sound system that they have in their sanctuary. It is almost as if they think that the lost have to come to the church because that’s where the presence of God is…Not only is that not true, not only is it not scriptural, it seems awfully arrogant to me. As Christians, we have the promise of eternal life given to us and we are commanded to go and tell others about it!

 

The second problem with those scenarios is the fact that the gospel is not being preached. The truth of the gospel isn’t just the “love” of Jesus. I put love in quotes because many pastors and other Christians don’t seem to understand the love of Jesus anymore. The gospel is not about the “love” of Jesus alone. It is about the fact that God the Son was willing (before the foundation of the earth!) to come down and die for the world that we might be reconciled to Him. It is the fact that our sin separates us from God and we can do nothing to cleanse ourselves. It is the fact that salvation comes through Christ and Him alone and not any other belief system. It is the fact that without Christ, our sins will cause us to spend eternity in hell. It is the fact that we can be forgiven of sin if we repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ. THAT’S the gospel! That’s not what’s being preached though. Instead, many churches are preaching another gospel. They may preach the prosperity gospel about how “God wants you blessed”. They may preach the “love gospel” where that’s all God is and there is no judgment or justice or fear of consequence for our actions. They may preach about how we all have a “God-shaped hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill”. None of those are the gospel! We were commanded to preach THE gospel not A gospel. Paul says that any man or angel (Muslims) that preaches a gospel other than the one he preached (the one that Jesus preached); they are to be accursed! That word accursed is anathema in the Greek and means banned or excommunicated! Paul is saying that if anyone preaches a false gospel, they are to be banned or excommunicated, and yet how many preachers, pastors, evangelists and teachers are preaching a false gospel? Can we really be surprised at the lack of response? Can we call this effective evangelism? I don’t think so…

 

We have adopted a wrong attitude toward evangelism. We try to lure the lost in with worldly things and then wonder why they aren’t impressed. If we happen to see one person saved, we can’t understand why they are back into a life of sin a couple months down the road. This happens because we aren’t preaching the truth. We are making them comfortable and tickling their ears. We are telling them what they want to hear or what we want them to believe instead of telling them the truth. We aren’t going out into the world and preaching anymore. We’re trying to get the lost to come to us. If we adopt a biblical understanding of sin and hell, and then preach that to the lost, we would see more than “just one soul” when we go. If we truly care about the fates of the souls of the lost, then we will stop playing around with the lives of others and spend our time going and preaching THE gospel!

 

Jesus has left the building

April 14, 2008 at 10:42 am | Posted in Christianity | 2 Comments
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I don’t watch American Idol (gasp!!). I may be one of the eight or so people that don’t. I don’t have any desire to watch it. But I do hear about what happens on the show from time to time. What they did last week was blasphemous but typical of much of the programming that’s on TV today.

Last week was the “Idol gives back” week. They had all of their events and special guests to help them raise money for those in need (some of the money goes to support abortion too…). The theme for the week was “inspiration” and the remaining idols were to pick a song that inspires them. Much of the music selected was the “I’m ok, you’re ok, we’re all ok and we feel good” stuff. One idol sang about how we’re all “innocent” (that’s not true according to scripture!). The entire show was spent talking about how we could help those in need and we can lift man out of poverty, with absolutely nothing about God. Then for the big finale, they decided to sing, “Shout to the Lord“. You may be saying, “Well, what’s wrong with that? Aren’t you a Christian? Shouldn’t that be encouraging to you?” Yes. It should be encouraging, but it wasn’t. There was something different about the song than I remember it. They changed some of the lyrics and even removed a few lines. What did they change? Here is the first few lines of “Shout to the Lord” from American Idol:

My shepherd, my savior

Lord there is none like you

All of my days, I want to praise

The wonders of your mighty love

As you read that, if you know the lyrics, you’ll see something is missing. Well, not something, Someone. Here are the original lyrics:

My Jesus, my Savior

Lord there is none like you

All of my days, I want to praise

The wonders of your mighty love

They took Jesus out of the song! Why? Why is it His Name that offends people so much? Now, they did sing it again with the correct lyrics, but this entire scenario got me to thinking. People talk about God all the time, although they rarely mean the God of the Bible. Even among Christians, when God is talked about, it is often not the God of the Bible. It is an image of God that they have created for themselves.

In a way, I’m not surprised that this happened on American Idol. The show has absolutely nothing of Christianity in it. That’s made clear by how the “judges” treat those who sing a song that actually has Christian value. What does surprise me is that in churches across America today, Jesus has left the building. A number of churches (many of them either “seeker sensitive” or “emergent”) are removing the cross from their churches. The reason it’s being removed is that they are concerned that it might offend someone!! That’s what scripture says it’s supposed to do!! The cross is offensive to those that don’t believe! It shows them that they are sinners and that they are responsible for the death of the one truly innocent man. By removing the cross and other things that might be offensive to the non-Christians, you are starting down a slippery slope. Not having a physical cross is debatable, but the physical cross isn’t the only thing that has been removed. I’ve spoken on this before and it continues to grow in popularity in churches across the nation. Pastors and leadership in our churches continue to remove Jesus from every aspect of “church”. They no longer talk about the cross. They’ve stopped talking about sin, judgment, and hell. They have removed the power of God for salvation. They have not just removed the “offensive” cross; they’ve begun to remove everything that MIGHT be offensive to someone. In the end, they have made “church” more of a club or social gathering instead of what it’s supposed to be.

Because they’ve removed the cross, because they’ve stopped talking about sin, judgment, and hell, because they no longer say anything that might offend someone they’ve had to replace it with something else. Without the cross and the truth of eternal damnation, they have had to build a completely different religion based on a “God” that doesn’t exist and preaching a message that lulls people into a false sense of security with nothing but twisted scriptures and platitudes holding their belief system together. This is how the modern gospel started. We rarely hear about the real gospel anymore. Instead, we hear about how God loves us. We hear about how He wants to dote on us and would never harm one of His kids. We hear about how He wants us to “prosper” and bless our socks off. Really? He does? All of this “new” gospel is not new at all. It’s the same thing that Satan’s been using from the beginning to tempt people and lead them away from God. How many poor Christians do you know? How many believers are struggling with finances? Are they all in that position because they don’t have enough faith or because they are “out of God’s will”? Or is there something more to it?

Not only have preachers begun preaching something other than the cross, they’ve mixed the tenets of other religions in with the Christian faith to make a religion suitable for themselves. Some have added things like yoga and Eastern mysticism to their beliefs. They are adding Eastern meditation to their daily routine. This method of meditation causes you to “empty your mind”. That’s not scriptural, but many are doing it. Others have added “New Age” beliefs to Christianity. They are talking about “God-consciousness” or “Christ-consciousness”. They are talking about how we all have “God” in us. How we can achieve “synchronicity” with “God” and be on the same level with “Him”. We have removed the fear of God from our preaching and our way of life. We have moved away from the truth of the Word of God and into a big melting pot of lies, trying to mold a golden calf that we feel comfortable worshipping without any conviction about doing wrong or having our sins weigh on us to the point that we cry out to the true God for forgiveness and repent.

The body of Christ exists ultimately to tell others the truth of what’s to come. We are supposed to be telling others about how Jesus is coming back to judge the world in righteousness and how if they are caught in their sins they will find themselves in hell. We are to tell them how they are storing up the wrath of God for the Day of Judgment and that they will have to stand before Him and give an account for every idle word they’ve spoken (Matt. 12:36). They will have no excuse for their disbelief and will not be able to just “talk to God about it”. By the time they stand before God, it will be too late. We are supposed to be telling them that they are not promised tomorrow and that the only way that they can know they will go to heaven is to recognize that they are a sinner, repent of those sins, and put their complete faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Sadly, we’re not telling people this. We’re not redeeming our time like we should be. We are spending days and weeks with people, laughing and joking, but we don’t tell them the truth that they need. They could die tomorrow and we would be guilty of comforting someone straight into hell. Their blood will be on our hands. What will you say to God for all the souls that you didn’t tell the truth of the gospel and are now in hell because they died without Christ?

If we are truly Christians, then we will stop trying to build bigger churches, run programs, and spend our time and money entertaining people. If we’re truly Christians, we’ll take that time and money and invest it into the lives of men, women, and children that need the truth of the gospel. We’ll put it into ministries that are helping others instead of doing our own thing. We’ll start to make the impact on their lives that Christ has made on ours. We’ll start being Christians…

Your thoughts?


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